Friday, October 30, 2009

Cumhurriyet Bayramı

Since I found out a few weeks ago that my blog was picked up by Globalpost, an international news blog, I've felt the need to produce something, well..."globalpost-worthy." I started framing all my experiences within the question: "Is this blog-able?" It's been a failure. Blogging has never been much more than a stream of consciousness for me, and I think I've just about given up efforts to make it more than that.

So despite the past couple of weeks trying to compose some sort of coherent thought about Nationalism, the topic of today's post, I'm going to just go for it: list some observations, questions, thoughts, reactions...and hopefully that will suffice for my new readership.

First off, I want to say that my academic semester is saturated with discussions about nationalism. My two most intellectually challenging and interesting courses are dialogues about the varying theories and case studies of nationalism. I've been spending my evenings dissecting primordialist/ethno-symbolist/modernist approaches to nationalism, and then applying them to the case of "millet nations" in the Ottoman empire. Over the next half of the semester, I'll dive into Irish, Balkan and Russian cases.

As I've mentioned before, my days are largely composed of class, reading, and exercise. Basically this means I'm non-stop thinking about these theories...and this past Thursday, 29 October, was the perfect day to be bombarded with the physical manifestation of all these thoughts. Cumhurriyet Bayramı is the celebration of the day that Atatürk officially proclaimed the Independent Turkish Republic in 1923. The following are some images of Turkish pride...

Some of these flags have been around for a couple weeks now, like the smaller ones that line the streets in the Beşiktaş Belediyesi, for example. Part of this is a result of the strong inter-municipality competition among the districts in Istanbul, each governed by a different political party trying to prove that they are the most proud of the Turkish republic. Otherwise, overnight the city turns into one big star and crescent via businesses, families, schools, etc. all either proudly displaying the Ay Yıldız or bowing to the pressure of nationalist fervor. (Know the neighbor on the street who refuses to put an American flag up on July 4th?)

On Thursday morning, Cole, Grace and I trekked to Aksaray to check out the official Istanbul parade for Cumhurriyet Bayramı. I snapped all those pictures above on my bus ride from Hisarüstü to Aksaray. Below are some of the many photos I have from the actual parade. Summary = little kids with parents, lots of schoolchildren (some very evidently disgruntled and apathetic, some seemingly enthusiastic - perhaps an effect of a stern schoolmaster?), military and veterans, some politicians, etc...

I think it's quite easy to say that a bunch of flags and even the show of tanks, or military power, isn't too harmless. Except that this kind of mentality is not saved for Cumhurriyet Bayramı. It's something that unfortunately, a huge part of the Turkish population lives every day. Surges of "national unity" pride that are euphemisms for protests against the recognition of the problems that Turkey faces, problems that military, politicians, and then the people too often and too easily radicalize as theats to the unity of the Turkish Republic as Atatürk envisioned it 86 years ago.

In this sense, Turkey is stuck protecting the borders of its National Pact. Still, 89 years after Sevres, in the Sevres mentality - convinced that the world is still trying to tear apart Turkey as imperial powers did the Middle East in the inter-war period. (But now, new parties are the major threats to Turkey's "sovereignty": Armenia, the Kurds, Greece, Israel, America). I learn about Sevres mentality in class, and then it pops up left and right in newspapers, politics, and even in conversations with friends...and I just can't help but write about it.

Now, I'm going to take a major turn and stop writing about these things that really upset me. Having accused Turkey of being overly obsessed about a past that is no longer politically or socially relevant, I should say that actually, I really like Turkey! There have been times in the past 4.5 months that I feel like I don't belong here, that I can't stand and make me miss America so much. But the thing is...I can list out those times, I can tell you about what happened in that specific moment, I can probably describe those few guys who really blew it for Turkey. Those times are "countable," whereas my affection and love for the warmth of Turkish culture (things I promise to write about in my next blog post) is now a full-fledged part of my life. I don't know how I'm going to say bye to it on the 22nd...

Anyways, Cumhurriyet Bayramı Kutlu Olsun everyone. (Sorry, I'm 2 weeks late). And at the least, fierce nationalism puts on a great fireworks show:


  1. AHHHHHH you make me want to go abroad again! and why are you so smart??? what happened to that kid who couldn't learn to play the piano when her big sister was yelling at her to learn faster??? i am so proud of the improvement and progress you have made from that point, and of what you have made of your life as a whole. we are all rooting for you back here! even may, ngan, and courtney!

  2. Kim Ang,
    Every post I read makes me so proud to be your friend and sister. You are one of the few people I know that takes your opportunities and pushes it to the fullest. You are a constant inspiration to me, and I CANNOT wait for your return! I want to have a night where I just sit and listen to you for hours! :D LOVE YOU Alice